Six days backpacking in Mandalay, Hsipaw, and the ancient cities of Upper Myanmar: Amarapura, Sagaing, Innwa, and Mingun.

Just the thought of visiting a place called Mandalay already got me excited, the name seemed so exotic. There were a lot of places to visit in and around Mandalay that kept me busy for six days.

I spent my first day cycling around the main tourist spots at Mandalay city center, and then took off the next day for an overnight railway adventure to Hsipaw. When I came back, I spent two more days wandering around the ancient cities of Mingun, Amarapura, Sagaing, and Innwa.

Itinerary Rundown

  • Bagan
  • Bagan
  • Bagan to Mandalay Bus
Day 1
  • Mandalay
  • Mandalay Bus Terminal to Mandalay City Center
  • Mandalay Hostel Check-in
Day 2
  • Mandalay
  • Mandalay Bicycle Tour
  • Mandalay Hill
Day 3
  • Hsipaw
  • Mandalay to Hsipaw Train
  • Hsipaw Village
Day 4
  • Hsipaw
  • Hsipaw Morning Market
  • Hsipaw to Mandalay
Day 5
  • Mandalay
  • Mandalay to Mingun Boat
  • Mingun Walking Tour
  • Mingin to Mandalay Boat
  • Mandalay Bicycle Tour
Day 6
  • Greater Mandalay
  • Amarapura U-bein bridge
  • Sagaing Hills
  • Innwa (Ava)
  • Sunset at U-bein bridge
  • Mandalay City Center Tour
  • Mandalay to Yangon Bus
  • Kyaiktiyo
  • Northern and Central Myanmar
  • Indochina Loop

Trip Date — October 2012

Itinerary Notes & Tips

Day 1

Night bus to Mandalay


  • Moto = motorycle and driver for hire
  • Trishaw = three wheeled cycle rickshaw / pedicab
  • K = Myanmar kyat (MMK)


  • Make reservation and pay for bus tickets from hostel in Bagan – K15,000
  • Request staff to make reservation for hostel in Mandalay
    • Very important to do during your entire stay in Myanmar since accommodation options are limited and they tend to be always fully booked.

Bagan to Mandalay Bus

  • 3:45pm – Free pick-up transfer from hostel to new bus station in Nyaung-U
  • Meal at New Bagan bus station
    • Chicken curry and rice
  • 4pm – Departure from Bagan
  • 4pm to 11pm – Bagan to Mandalay aircon bus (7 hours)
    • 1 dinner stop
  • 11pm – Arrival at Mandalay bus terminal

Mandalay Bus Terminal to Mandalay City Center

  • Ride shared pick-up truck to city center (10 minutes) – K3,000 per person

Hostel in Mandalay

  • Check-in at Royal Guest House (No. 41 25th Street; phone: 0265697)
    • Aircon room with twin beds (Free breakfast and private TB) – US$20 per night
      • Shared room with another solo backpacker
    • Rooms were clean, spacious, and they had a place in the rooftop to hangout. Lots of good eating options nearby.

Sleep: Royal Guest House
Day expenses: US$10; K20,000 (estimate)

Day 2

  • 10:20am – Brunch at side street stall (cor of 84th and 25th steets)
    • Chicken with rice – K800
  • 12:30nn – Rent bicycle at shop across the street from Royal Guest House (25th street)
    • Bike rental – K1,500 (whole day)

Mandalay Bicycle Tour

  • 1:00pm – Mandalay train station
  • 1:15pm – Moat and fortress wall surrounding the Mandalay Royal Palace
    • Buy Mandalay to Hsipaw train ticket – US$8 (first class cabin)
  • 2:15pm – Mandalay Royal Palace
    • Tourist entrance was located at the east gate.
    • Pay Mandalay Archaeological Zone admission fee – US$10 per person
      • Valid for one week (7 days)
      • Includes admission to tourist sites around Mandalay, Sagaing, Amarapura and Inwa. I was not asked to show the ticket elsewhere.
  • 4:10pm – Mandalay Hill
    • Walk from the base of Mandalay Hill to the Sutaungpyei Pagoda temple at the summit (1 hour)
    • 5:30pm – Sunset at Sutaungpyei Pagoda temple
  • 7:45pm – Dinner at Smile All 81 (81st street near corner 23rd st.)
    • Meals from K2,000  (large servings good for two)
    • Delicious food and friendly staff

Sleep: Royal Guest House
Day expenses: US$18; K7,000 (estimate)

Day 3 to 4

Hsipaw train journey


Day 4

Back in Mandalay

  • 5:30pm – Arrival at Mandalay Bus Terminal
  • Dinner at Mandalay  Bus Terminal
    • Fried rice with chicken (K1,500) + 1L bottled water (K300) – K1,800
  • Ride moto to Mandalay city center – K2,000
    • Haggled from K3,000
  • Check-in at Royal Guesthouse
    • Stayed at same room
  • Wifi internet at NetCom (23rd street, a few doors away from Royal Guest House) – K500
  • Eat at Happy All Mr. Bar @ 81 st. – K3,000
    • Chicken Marlar curry – K2,000
    • Lime jiuce – K1,000
  • Exchange US$ to Kyats at travel agency near Royal Guest House (23rd st.)
    • Exchange rate- US$1 = K800

Sleep: Royal Guest House
Day Expenses: US$10; K14,600

Day 5

  • Wake-up. Free breakfast at Royal GH
  • Transfer to single fan room (shared TB) – US$9 per night

Mingun day tour

  • Trishaw ride to Mayan Gyan Jetty (for Mingun ferries) at end of 26th street – K1,000
  • Buy Mandalay to Mingun ferry ticket – K5,000 (roundtrip)
  • 9:00am – Departure from Mandalay
  • 9:00am to 10:20am – Mandalay to Mingun Ferry (1 hour and 20 minutes)
  • 10:20am – Arrival in Mingun
    • Was not asked to pay Mingun-Sagaing Archaeological Zone admission ticket
  • Mingun Walking Tour
    • Settawa Paya (Pagoda) at ferry landing
    • 10:25am – Giant Elephant statues
    • 11:05am – Hsinbyume Pagoda
    • 11:50am – Mingun Bell
    • 12:00nn – Mingun Pagoda
    • Lunch at side street stall
      • Chicken “adobo” with rice – K1,500
  • 1pm – Departure from Mingun
  • 1pm to 1:30pm – Mingun to Mandalay Ferry (30 minutes)
  • 1:30pm – Arrival in Mandalay
  • Pass by flower market and themed childrens park
  • Moto from Mingun jetty to Royal Guest House – K1,000

Bicycle tour to Buddha and Shwe In Bin monastery

  • Bike rental – K700 (half-day rental)
    • Asked for a discount since I was renting the bike for only a few hours
  • 3:45pm – State Pariyatti Sasana University
    • Got lost cycling around Mandalay. Went inside a monk school, where a monk befriended me and showed me the way to Shwe In Bin.
  • 4:00pm – Shwe In Bin (wooden teak) monastery
  • 4:40pm – Maha Myat Muni Paya
  • Internet at Netcom- K1,500
  • Dinner at cheap place across the road
    • Fried rice + chicken – K1,500

Sleep: Royal Guest House
Day Expenses: US$8; K14,200 (estimate)

Day 6

  • 7:15am – free breakfast
  • Buy Mandalay to Yangon bus ticket at travel agency near Royal Guest House – K10,400

Ancient cities of Upper Myanmar tour

  • Ride moto from Royal Guest House to roadside pick-up station along 29th street (less than 3 minutes) – K1,000
Amarapura: U-bein bridge
  • Pick-up truck ride from Mandalay to Amarapura (15 minutes) – K200
    • Told driver and conductor to drop me off near the U-bein bridge
  • 8:35am – Arrival in AmarapuraWalk to U-bein bridge (20 minutes to foot of bridge from main road)
    • Dropped off along the main road. U-bein bridge was still a long walk away.
  • Explored a small part of the bridge, planned to come back in the late afternoon and walk the entire length.
  • 9:55am – Walk back to main road
    • Was not asked to pay admission fee
Sagaing Hills
  • Pick-up truck to Sagaing town center (15 minutes) – K300
    • Dropped off at the foot of the Ava (steel) Bridge
  • Sagaing Hills moto tour – K3,000 round trip from Ava Bridge and back
    • 10:33am – Pon Nya Shin Pagoda – K300 camera fee
    • 11:05am – U Min Thonze Pagoda
    • 11:25am – Thidagu World Buddhist University
    • 11:51am – Kaung Mu Taw Pagoda
      • Moto driver requested additional K2,000 to take me to Kaung Mu Taw Pagoda
Innwa (Ava)
  • Moto to Innwa then Amarapura – Additional K2,000
    • Total moto hire from Ava bridge to and around Sagaing Hills, Kaung Mu Taw Pagoda, to and around Innwa, then drop off at Amarapura – K7,000
  • Innwa moto tour
    • 1:00pm – Mahar Aungmyebonsan Monastery
    • Lunch outside innwa monastery
      • Fried egg with rice – K1,000
      • Coffee – K200
    • 1:57pm – Lawka Tharahpu Pagoda
Sunset at U-bein bridge
  • 2:47pm – Arrival at U-bein Bridge
  • 4:30pm – Ride pick-up truck from Amarapura to Mandalay – K300

Mandalay tour continuation

  • Ride moto to base of Mandalay Hill – K1,500
  • Walk around sites near foot of Mandalay Hill
    • 5:20pm – Kyauktawgyi Pagoda
    • 5:38pm – Sandamuni Pagoda
    • 6:00pm – Atumashi Monastery
    • 6:05pm – Shwe Kyaung Monastery
    • 6:10pm – Dusk at Mandalay moat
  • Moto to Smile All 81 restaurant – K1,500
  • Dinner at Smile All 81
    • Pork with veggies, rice, cola – K3,100
  • Internet at netcom – K1,000
  • Check-out at Royal Guest House

Mandalay to Yangon night bus

  • Ride Moto to Mandalay bus terminal – K3,000
  • 9pm – Departure from Mandalay
  • 9pm to 7am – Mandalay to Yangon Bus (10 hours)
    • 1 dinner stop and multiple bathroom stops
    • Seats only; No sleeper beds.

Sleep: Bus
Day expenses: K34,500

Budget and Expenses

Total expenses: US$162 (estimate)

  • US$52 + K94,300 (US$110)

Daily budget estimate: US$32 per day

Date of travel: October 2012